Best of the Week
of Dec. 12, 1999

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Dec. 12, 1999, as selected by Y? These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found by accessing our new database using our search form, or, in the case of answers posted before April 24, 1999, in our Original Archives (all questions from the Original Archives have been entered into the new database as well). In the Original Archives and the new database, you will find questions that have received answers, as well as questions still awaiting responses. We encourage you to answer any questions relevant to your demographic background, as well as to ask any provocative question you desire. Answers posted are not necessarily meant to represent the views of an entire demographic group, but can provide a window into the insights of an individual from that group.

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Question:
My husband and I just found out that his son and daughter-in-law are going to have a Down Syndrome child. As the very new step-mom, I do not know what to say. The family is very sensitive and does not communicate at all. I am extremely social with everyone but his kids.
POSTED 12/16/1999
J. Smith, Fresno, CA, United States, Mesg ID 12141999101100
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Question:
Why do whites take things in life so hard? I've worked in several medical clinics. Most of them had African-American populations. Now I'm working in a clinic with a majority white population. The negative emotional responses I've seen whites give to illness is of a higher degree than the black populations I've worked with. Nasty things happen to people all the time. Why the problems with coping?
POSTED 12/14/1999
Susan, Boston, MA, United States, 40, Female, Black/African American, Mesg ID 12131999122420

Responses:
I realize that "black people don't care" is certainly not always the case, but from a white person's point of view, that's what many could, and probably do, think. I've worked in a clinical environment in the past and found myself asking the question, Why don't any of the black people working here care about these people? I've since come to realize that it's just a different way of coping. We use empathy, you use apathy. So, to answer your question, there is no more or less problem coping. We just do it differently.
POSTED 12/15/1999
Nicholas F., Panorama City, CA, United States, 38, Male, Catholic, Straight, Network Engineer, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1215199912030

I think a person's response to illness is probably related to their connection to this life. Their connection might be reflective of the type of life they have lived. If one's life has been relatively easy, with friends, family, security, happiness, etc., then when confronted by a threat, one would be distraught. Whereas, if one has experienced mostly pain, suffering and loss, then the prospect of leaving this place might not be such a bad idea.
POSTED 12/15/1999
Matthew, New York, NY, United States, 41, Male, White/Caucasian, Gay, Acting, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 1215199983948
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Question:
Why are Americans obsessed with the class system? I thought they were proud of their class-less society, as compared with other countries.
POSTED 12/14/1999
D. Arnold, Taipei, NA, Taiwan, 37, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, English teacher, 2 Years of College , Lower class, Mesg ID 12131999125835

Responses:
I have never heard that we have a "classless society" in the United States. What I believe we do have is a society where it is easier to move from class to class than it is in other societies. My immigrant grandfather was a janitor. His children became salesmen or small businessmen. His grandchildren are almost all college graduates, with several members of the professions. There aren't too many countries in the world where that can happen.
POSTED 12/15/1999
Pappa Jerry, Tampa, FL, United States, 66, Male, White/Caucasian, Attorney, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1215199995206

Most Americans have this huge bizarre amount of denial that there even is a class system in the United States. Even your assumption that there isn't much of a class system is part of that denial. Both janitors and lawyers claim to be middle class when it should be obvious neither of them are. The fact is, America is the most unequal of the industrial nations in terms of income and class, as unequal as most Third World countries. Salaries for CEOs are 300-400 times as high as that of the average worker at the same company. Compare that to Europe, where the ratio is only 150-200 times, or Japan, where it's 50-60 times. There has been a class system and class warfare in America from before its founding. The only difference between here and Europe is that the average European knows it. In America, it's mostly the wealthy and their stooges who know it.
POSTED 12/16/1999
A.C.C., West Lafayette, IN, United States, Mexican and American Indian, Lower class, Mesg ID 12141999105801
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Question:
Recently I've been questioning my sexuality and I was wondering if someone could clarify for me how you know whether or not you're straight, gay, or bisexual?
POSTED 12/12/1999
Jack, New York, NY, United States, 19, Male, College Student, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1211199992538

Responses:
I felt "different" even as a youngster, long before I knew anything about sex. I was always drawn to the boys. I was pretty (quietly) sexually active with guys in high school, but then submitted to parental and peer pressure and married a woman at age 22. I divorced after 4 years, was celibate for the next 8, then came out at 34. So, am I gay, straight or bisexual? I now identify as gay. I am comfortable with myself as a very out gay man. I feel complete. My wife was a good woman, but it just wasn't within my abilities to be a dedicated husband, and it was a cruel mistake to have ever married. There isn't any clarifying rule that determines your orientation; it's who you are, and only you can make the call. I certainly advise reading lots of books. Coming-out stories can help give you a point of reference, and books such as Betty Berzon's Setting Them Straight and perhaps Christian de la Huerta's Coming Out Spiritually can help you deal with the likely questions you'll have.
POSTED 12/14/1999
Mark B., Dallas, TX, United States, <markmark@airmail.net>, 39, Male, Cathedral of Hope - UFMCC, White/Caucasian, Gay, Financial analyst, 2 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 1213199913840

Many people struggle with this question for their entire lives, and sadly, there is no simple way to answer it. My suggestion would be to "safely" explore your sexuality and do whatever feels comfortable for you. Don't get hung up on the labels "gay," "bi" or "straight." This is more about your happiness than how you identify yourself. Some ways to do this would be to examine your friendships. Do you feel more comfortable among gay or straight people? What kind of people are you attracted to? This is a personal matter that only you can explore. Hopefully, your friends will be there to support you, but at the same time, you can't let them influence you. Above all, be careful about how you proceed. Exploring your sexuality doesn't necessarily involve sleeping around.
POSTED 12/14/1999
Shawn, Fort Worth, TX, United States, <pharaun@aol.com>, 24, Male, Episcopalian, White/Caucasian, Gay, Aviation / Law Enforcement, Technical School , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 1213199912948

You ask a question that's hard for me to answer because I always knew. For me, the key was who I wanted to spend time with, how I dreamed spending the rest of my life and what really mattered to me. There's only one correct answer: What is true for you. Don't worry about what other people think. You need honesty. Then whatever answer you come up with, you can be sure that it can guide you in making whatever decisions you face. And congratulations. While trying to answer big questions is tough - sometimes even miserable - you're handling this one in the best way possible by trying to get information and looking for the truth.
POSTED 12/14/1999
Thom L., Washington, DC, United States, 56, Male, Gay, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 12131999125503
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Question:
Why is it that after taking part in a sports event or game at a sports center, a lot of men do not dry themselves properly after taking a shower? This could be used in a comedian's material. They show wet patches on the back of their shirts that are noticable, yet women don't have this problem.
POSTED 12/12/1999
Robert S., Poole, IL, United Kingdom, 23, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, P/T student and Wholesale worker, Mesg ID 1211199965114

Responses:
I leave wet patches on myself so it will be noticed that I have been working out. If I just dried myself off like a normal person, nobody would notice. But with those wet patches, I get the attention we all desire.
POSTED 12/14/1999
Matt J., Columbia, SC, United States, Mesg ID 1213199931029
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Question:
I have a co-worker in his mid-20s who listens to nothing but rap to the exclusion of all other forms of music. I was quite surprised to learn that he has never heard of any of the '70s and '80s rock groups referred to as 'classic rock' groups. Even groups like the Rolling Stones, Van Halen and Aerosmith, who are still recording and performing today. I find it amazing that someone of that age is so sheltered musically that he has never heard of some of the biggest, in terms of sales and sheer amount of airplay, musical groups ever. Is this common among rap listeners? I know when I was coming up in the '70s, I and my associates had heard of most of the really big '50s and '60s groups like the Beach Boys, et al. My co-worker happens to be Caucasion.
POSTED 12/13/1999
Steve J., Warrensburg, MO, United States, 42, Male, White/Caucasian, Straight, 2 Years of College, Middle class,Mesg ID 1212199934439

Responses:
Back in the old days, hip hop (a.k.a. rap) was primarily an urban thing. It was brought about and adhered to by black and Latino youth. The thing is, as youngsters, this generation of youths were probably exposed to a lot more Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Diana Ross, James Brown and the Temptations than to Led Zepplin and Aerosmith. With the exception of acts such as Santana, War, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, they grew up with music that was different from the guitar solos and multi-layered riffs of what was then modern rock and roll. Today, hip hop is one of the biggest genres around. Officially, it has been in existence for more than 20 years, ever since Cool Herc was attributed with the invention of it (though its roots go back to the mid-'60s). And today, about 80 percent of its audience is your proverbial "suburban white kids," which explains what is shown on MTV. So this young person you speak of could have very well completely grown up in hip hop and by complete accident not have been exposed to anything else. Ask him if he's ever heard of Cool Herc, Funkmaster Flex, The Furious 5, Grandmaster Flash or the Sugar Hill Gang.
POSTED 12/14/1999
Dan, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 21, Male, Pentecostal Christian, Hispanic/Latino, student/dishwasher, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 1213199985022

Rock music is just one of several musical styles, as is rap. People who listen to any one genre of music aren't always interested in or familiar with what else is out there. So those who don't listen to rock music (or any other type, for that matter) wouldn't know much about it. To me, that doesn't mean this guy is sheltered, but rather he just isn't as interested in rock music as you seem to be.
POSTED 12/14/1999
Patrick, , CA, United States, 21, Male, College Student, Mesg ID 1213199965610

I love hip hop, but I also love old music from the Rolling Stones. My boyfriend (age 22) loves hip hop at least as much as I do, but also owns every old Rolling Stones album on vinyl (in addition to lots of other classic rock like Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, etc). So I think it's just your co-worker. Some people grow such strong loyalties to things that they aren't aware of the existence of other things. Or maybe he just doesn't like the way classic rock sounds and turns it off every time he hears it. It's just a matter of taste. How many of the older hip hop artists can you name? After all, the Sugar Hill Gang is still performing.
POSTED 12/14/1999
S.R., Austin, TX, United States, 21, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, student, Mesg ID 1213199961547
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Question:
To black women: I love to entertain. I love having friends over for the holidays and informal gatherings. On several occassions, I have held get-togethers for women only. I'd like to think I'm the hostess' hostess. I plan for weeks, cook great dishes, and usually there's some kind of theme, etc. My dilemma: consistently, my black girlfriends are notorious for not giving an RSVP. Why is this? It is a bit frustrating trying to plan menus, table settings, etc. without some idea of the head count. My non-black friends are far more considerate, responding nay or yea in timely manner. They routinely also thank me for the invitation and request that I keep them in mind for the next affair I have. To those of you who do not respond, have you ever considered that not responding is inconsiderate?
POSTED 12/2/1999
Zawadi, Farmington Hills, MI, United States, <aquarius9@hotmail.com>, 34, Female, Black/African American,publishing, Middle class, Mesg ID 1229915922

Responses:
I have two suggestions: 1. Rather than use the French RSVP, use 'please reply'. 2. Offer a convenient means for the response, like a self addressed, stamped postcard with a place to note yes or no and a place to write the name of the respondent. Hope this helps you to get a better "head count" for your next affair.
POSTED 12/13/1999
M., Jacksonville, FL, United States, Mesg ID 12111999100731
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Question:
For the past few months on campus I've often seen Asian girls walking together, dressed alike, with their arms around one another. I haven't noticed such large numbers of girls of other races doing this, and I'm wondering if maybe it's common among girls in Asia to show platonic affection this way. Or is it something else? I know there is the possibility that they could be lesbians, but something tells me this is not the case for all of them.
POSTED 12/8/1999
S.R., Austin, TX, United States, 21, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, student, Mesg ID 128199941205
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Question:
I have been to a few Baptist wakes in Boston. It seems as though some Baptists place a thin cranberry-red colored netting over the open coffin. I've seen this done three times at black Southern Baptist services. Is this a Southern thing, a Baptist thing, a Boston thing or a black thing? And what is the purpose? Is it religious, ornamental, functional, symbolic or all of the above?
POSTED 12/8/1999
Carole, Boston, MA, United States, 32, Female, Agnostic, Biracial, Straight, 4 Years of College , Middle class,Mesg ID 127199950527

Responses:
I think this may be more of a black thing. It's not a specific Baptist rite that I know of. You don't see it so much today because most churches are air-conditioned. But years ago, when churches had to open the windows in summer, the netting was to protect the body from flies and other insects.
POSTED 12/14/1999
Sara, Louisville, KY, United States, 66, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, Retired, High School Diploma, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 1213199985638
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